By Gabby Huizinga
The lake rose above us like a dome. If we were to drive just past the light, it seemed as if we would be trapped inside of the dome, drowning in the sheer beauty that was Lake Huron. The water was so blue that it didn’t seem blue any longer. It was a foreign color, mystical and magical. It was the first time that I’d seen a lake that summer and the first time I’d seen Lake Huron.
The second the van stopped I jumped out and ran to the shore. The sand burned my feet and I instantly regretted wearing my flimsy flip flops instead of my classy sandals. The five of us—Marvin, Micah, Inga, Sophia, and I—waited patiently at the edge of the water for the camera crew. Lake Huron was the last stop on our filming tour for the movie. As much as I was homesick, I didn’t want this experience to end. Being on set everyday was a dream come true and the camera had become my friend. It would be almost a year until we could see the finished product, but I could already see my name glittering up in lights.
Within minutes, the cameras were rolling and I took my place next to Mary, our handler. Mary’s job was to supervise us while we weren’t on camera and to have any emergency items readily available. She handed Sophia and me a huge bottle of sunscreen and we helped each other slather it on. Marvin, Micah, and Inga were already protected due to their dark complexion, but Sophia’s fiery red hair and my golden hair left both of us vulnerable. I laid on my back, letting the richness of the sun sink into my skin.
Fred, our director, called Sophia to shoot and she disappeared into a sandy valley between two dunes. Julie, the assistant director, called for Marvin and Micah along the shore. It was just Inga and me left. It was always like that; two locations would shoot at once leaving two or three of us to entertain ourselves while we were waiting. It wasn’t hard; I’d only known the other kids for two days and we were already best friends.
Marvin and Micah came back within a few minutes and told me that Julie wanted to see me. I brushed the sand off of my sundress and walked along the shore to where she waited.
“Alright, Gabby, I’m going to have you stand on the shore for about five seconds and then you’ll wade out into the water for about fifty seconds. Don’t worry about going too far, just make sure that you go slow. I want you to think of your future, of where in life you’re going. It’s peaceful,” she told me. I nodded and took my place while she set up the camera.
I took a deep breath and looked out ahead of me. The water was so clear, so blue. The waves crashed at my feet. They were small at first, but grew with each passing second. I could barely hear Julie say the magic word—action. I counted to five and then tentatively stepped off of the shore and into the icy current. I wanted to jump back, but something pushed me forward. The wind? Maybe. The current? It’s possible. My future? I don’t know. I let whatever it was coax me further into the water. With every step another centimeter of my skin took in the pure water and began to breathe. The iciness of the water traveled through my body and I shivered. Everything here was so pure, a real-life fantasy. It was everything I ever wanted. This is it. This will be my future, I told myself. The water, the simplicity, the pure happiness. It all will be mine.
I stopped just before the water reached the edge of my dress and counted out the last two seconds. The wind blew my hair back and I smiled up at the sky. The sky was just a shade lighter than the water and there were two white fluffy clouds overhead. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, letting the Vitamin D sink in. I could feel my skin getting darker and my hair getting lighter.
“And scene!” called Julie and I turned around to see her and Fred applauding. I smiled as I made my way back to the shore where my dad met me with my flip flops and a towel for my legs and feet.
“That was exactly what I wanted. Nice work,” declared Fred.
“Thank you,” I answered, beaming. He patted my back and I ran off.
Throughout the day, I shot several other scenes, both by myself and with a few others. They felt good, but none of them felt as good as my first scene that day. When you’re an actor, you have to get in the moment. During that scene, I finally felt what it was like to be in the moment.
A few hours later, Fred and Julie sat together with clipboards in hand. They intently looked over the scenes we filmed that day and took notes. The other kids and I began to pack up our bags and load them into the vans. Most of the cameras and equipment was packed away; we only had out one of the tripod cameras and a handheld camera.
“Is that a wrap?” asked Mary as Fred and Julie approached us.
“I just have one more scene to film and I want Gabby to do it,” Fred answered.
He motioned for me to follow him down the shore a ways. We hadn’t gone that far down the shore and it took him a minute to get the view he wanted. He tested the angle of the camera at a variety of spots before finally marking an X in the sand.
“I want you to sit here and look out that way.” He pointed out into the water with the wind directly in my face. I did as I was told and waited for his instructions. “This scene is about reflection. It’s about looking at how far you’ve come and what you’re going to do in the future. I know you did the future scene with Julie, and I expect that you’ll do very well with this. I want you to think about what you’ve done with your life. Are you happy?”
I opened my mouth to speak but he quickly shushed me. “Don’t answer me. Show me. 3…2…1…action.”
I looked out over the water and let the wind blow my hair back. The wind carried tiny water particles and they tickled my face. Beyond the buoys, I saw a group of seagulls. Their pure white feathers made them stand out from the multitudes of blue. One in particular caught my eye. It was the one doing its own thing a few yards away from the group. It seemed selected, special almost. It looked back at the group every so often, but kept swimming away. It didn’t expect anyone to follow it, just like me. I was the one selected to come here. I was the one selected to do this scene. I was always the one selected, the one put on a pedestal. It made some people angry, or maybe it just gave others a reason to ignore me. And yet, I keep swimming. I keep swimming away from them.
I let my mind wander back a few days and I re-lived it all over again. I felt the nervousness of the first day of filming. I felt the rain during the graveyard scene. I felt the joy of playing on the playground. I felt the exhaustion after the first twelve hour work day. I felt the laughter that escaped from my lips during hair and makeup. I felt the warmth of the summer sun on my skin. I felt the ice cold water as it sunk into my toes. I felt the bond that formed between me and the other kids. I felt it all again. The seagull began to swim towards me and I looked into its eyes. Suddenly, I understood. This is why I’m here on this Earth. I’m here to act. I’m here to perform. I’m here to be.
Yes, Mr. Fred. Yes, I’m happy.